Earlier this year, the Washington National Cathedral announced plans to build a replica of the cathedral in LEGO in order to raise funds for the repair of the cathedral due to damage from the 2011 earthquake. I bought some bricks online early on, which went into construction of the Bethlehem Chapel, but I wanted to also visit the cathedral, buy bricks there, and build them myself.

Last week, when taking a vacation day, I had that opportunity. With the help of a volunteer named Thomas, I bought 10 bricks and built part of a foundation pillar. While the pictures below don’t indicare what I helped to build, they do give a picture of the current state of the LEGO cathedral, which Thomas said they hope to finish about three years from now.

I’m not religious, and yet, building the pillar with Thomas was a profoundly moving experience for me, and I damn near cried. If Thomas noticed that I was tearing up, he politely didn’t say anything. Religious buildings speak to the best parts of human nature, our desire to create and build communities and lasting monuments that wills stand the test of time. Adding to the LEGO replica of the cathedral, even in a part that won’t be seen by anyone once the floor goes over top, made me feel like I was part of that process, once that has played out across human history, and I will always be a part of it.

These first few photos show the part of the cathedral that was the first built. The bricks I bought online in the spring would be here.

The type of piece that I worked on on Friday can be seen at roughly center — gray, about twelve or fourteen bricks high. These are foundational pillars that the floor of the main sanctuary will rest atop.

There’s a better look here at what I worked on, center-left.

They didn’t let you work on the main model. Rather, there was a building station nearby, specifically in a corner of the gift short, which you can see at the upper right corner in the photo below. The man wearing the orange vest, talking with people (who added bricks to that foundational pillar before me), would be Thomas. He and his wife volunteer at the Cathedral on Fridays.

Perhaps, in a year’s time, I’ll return to the National Cathedral and add more bricks to the LEGO replica.

If you’re in the Washington, DC area and love LEGO, assisting in the construction is an experience you won’t forget.

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